Smartphones Gain as Mid-Range Handsets Suffer

Worldwide smartphones sales continued to rise amid a slumping mobile phone market as customers sought more features for their money, reported research firm Gartner.

The Stamford, Conn.-based company said customers who usually purchase mid-range phones are now either buying high-end smartphones — such as Apple’s iPhone and the BlackBerry from Research in Motion — or trading down to less-expensive handsets.

Gartner said global mobile phone sales totaled 286 million units in the second quarter, down 6.1 percent from a year earlier, but an improvement on the record 9.4 percent drop in the first quarter last year.

Meanwhile, smartphones sales increased by 27 percent in the same period to 41 million units.

“Despite the challenging market, some devices sold well as consumers who would usually have purchased standard mid-range devices either cut back to less expensive handsets or moved up the range to get more features for their money,” said Carolina Milanesi, Gartner’s research director. “The concern is: how much money will consumers be ready to spend after the economy improves. Has the market been changed forever as regards pricing?”

Heavyweight Nokia remained the mobile phone leader, even though its market share fell to 36.8 percent from 39.5 percent in the year-earlier period.

South Korean phone makers gained market share as Samsung rose to 19.3 percent from 15.2 percent and LG increased to 10.7 percent from 8.8 percent.

Motorola’s market share sank to 5.6 percent from 10 percent.

Of the top five vendors, Sony Ericsson saw the sharpest drop in market share, falling to just 4.7 percent from 7.5 percent.

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